An EcoFlight trip above the heart of the Piceance Basin west of the Roaring Fork Valley sought to give various members of Colorado-based media groups perspective into a recently filed lawsuit that challenges 53 energy leases in Mesa and Garfield counties that were awarded by the Bureau of Land Management in 2016 and 2017.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, a Denver nonprofit. There are three co-plaintiffs, one of which is the Carbondale-based nonprofit Wilderness Workshop, which describes itself as “the conservation watchdog of nearly 4 million acres of public lands in western Colorado.” The 53 lease parcels encompass about 45,000 acres in western Colorado, including one parcel that lies within a half-mile of a K-12 public school in the community of De Beque in Mesa County.

Monday’s flight in a single-engine plane passed over some of the areas where the parcels are located, including Vega Reservoir, Soft Shale Ridge, Roan Creek Drainage Area, and the towns of Mesa and De Beque. The plaintiffs say they are concerned about the effects of the controversial practice of “fracking” for natural gas and the potential harm energy production can have on wildlife, water supplies and air quality.

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